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Hangin' with David O'Connor

On April 1, DAVID O'CONNOR started his role as senior account director at GMR Marketing, based out of the agency's London headquarters. O'Connor joined the agency after spending six years with FIFA, most recently as the organization's group leader of marketing and communication research where he worked on marketing campaigns, specifically in the area of social media activation. Prior to joining FIFA, O'Connor worked as an account manager for Sport + Markt in Cologne. O'Connor spoke to SBD Global about expanding FIFA's social media presence, consumer engagement and his new position at GMR Marketing.

On growing FIFA’s social media platform ...

David O'Connor: I think social media offers rights holders the fantastic opportunity to really engage on a different level with consumers than they have previously been able to. It took some time for FIFA to get their social media properties up and running, but now that they have, I think you see, through the numbers they have in terms of their social media following, they’re extremely successful and popular platforms. My personal responsibilities on our team were on developing social media propositions for FIFA-marketing related programs. One example that I can give you where social media played a very key role for us was when we were developing the official FIFA mascot for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, which is one of the key marketing assets. We were able to activate across social media, which gave us at FIFA at the time a great opportunity to engage with a younger target audience on a platform on Facebook where we had Fuleco, as his name was, engaging on topics with a younger Brazilian target audience. It was a great opportunity to communicate with that target. We had over 1.5 million Facebook fans at the end of that campaign and I think that was one of the successes of the mascot communication, which was led predominantly from my team.

On consumer engagement ...

O'Connor: When you look at social media and marketing, I think one of the biggest challenges -- not just for FIFA but I think in general for brands and for rights holders working in the social media space -- is to try and grow meaningful relationships with consumers through social media. It’s not really enough to simply look at the number of followers and the number of likes.

"Social media shouldn't just be used as another broadcast tool"

You really need to look deeper than that. Look at the engagement. It’s all very well for brands to be pushing content out across social media, but it shouldn’t just be used as another broadcast tool. You need to really have the resources and budget in place to ensure that once you reach out and create that community online that you then really manage that community and treat those fans and those followers on your page like normal people do on their social media accounts. If you get a message, you should be looking to reply to that message. That’s one of the challenges for brands with social media -- to make sure that they’re really resourced well enough to be able to manage the sites and platforms that they create effectively. There are obviously a lot of brands, clubs, rights holders and athletes out there engaging on social media now, and in order to break through that clutter, you need great content and community management in order to keep those communities thriving and lively.

On non-traditional sponsors ...

O'Connor: It’s interesting to see the types of brands in the product categories who are becoming sponsors in the field. I remember back in 2009 in the build up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup, when FIFA announced Yingli Solar as a sponsor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, it was quite uncommon for a solar energy brand to be engaging in such an event. They’ve built a sponsorship portfolio -- working on U.S. Soccer, and in the past few years with FC Bayern Munich -- so you see brands that were not traditional players in the sponsorship field like adidas and Coke. For example, in 2010-2014, FIFA had a language school in Wise Up, which used the FIFA World Cup as a platform to communicate their services as a language school in Brazil. I think the emergence of new and previously untapped product categories was a very interesting transfer for me to witness.

On his proudest professional accomplishment ...

O'Connor: I grew up in a football-loving family with football-loving friends. To get the opportunity to work at, not only the 2010 FIFA World Cup where I was a marketing and venue manager onsite, but also to be based for the 2014 FIFA World Cup at the FIFA headquarters in Rio and to really be at the heart of the action during the tournament, but also working with some of the world’s top blue-chip companies on their marketing campaigns was a real highlight of my career. Both of those World Cup experiences were probably the standout highlights, but also the opportunity to travel and work with great brands on some of the world’s biggest sporting and football events are really moments I will certainly never forget and have cherished over the last six years.

On his new role at GMR ...

O'Connor: My role is predominantly staying within the football world. I’m being tasked with the growth of GMR Marketing within the football industry. I’ll be based out of London focused on the geographical regions of Europe and EMEA, but also on a global level, working together with our colleagues out of GMR Marketing out of the U.S. My simple goal is primarily to start to build the awareness of GMR’s capabilities in the football field in Europe and EMEA together with the guys in the U.S. and hopefully to contribute significantly to the growth of GMR Marketing for the next few in years in football.

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